Ad Age: "I'm Joe the Plumber"

McCain’s latest effort to separate itself from the arugula-eating, latte-sipping culture au Obama, indicates yet another factor that’s leading the campaign to collapse: it’s inability to brand itself. Rather than relying on his own message, he’s using Microsoft’s.

McCain’s latest ad is a montage of (mostly white) people saying “I’m Joe the Plumber.” [].

Which is very similar to Microsoft’s latest ad. []

Branding himself off of Microsoft is a strategic move here. Microsoft has far more users than Macintosh, which is associated with the arugula crowd. But from an advertising, branding standpoint, Microsoft has been the biggest loser in comparison to Apple. similar to McCain’s campaign, Microsoft has been struggling to get out a unique advertising message. After losing millions of dollars on original celebrity ads [] that just didn’t seem to resonate with people, they finally resorted to a “response” ad based on Apple’s advertisements. And even then, Apple’s original “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads were more popular.

What the McCain campaign seems to be missing is that the premise of Microsoft’s spoof of Mac commercials is the opening line “I’m a PC, and I’ve been made into a stereotype.” If McCain’s camp really lacks that much vision that they are have to base their ads off of a commercial for consumer electronics, than at least it should do a better doing it.

To really parlay the PC message into a campaign message, McCain should have used Obama’s (now play-our and antiquated) quote that “stereotyped” the working class as gun-clinger-on-ers and bible lovers. Then show a variety of working class people from all walks of life who say that they are Joe the Plumber or whatever. Sure, it would still be a pretty cheap shot and I’d still be critiquing it, but at least it would show that the campaign is innovative and in touch with the public and pop culture. Right now it’s as if grandpa tried to make a youth reference and got it all wrong.

–Jamie Wong